Recently, we saw Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos make the announcement of providing a $2 billion fund to help tackle homelessness and provide primary education for low-income children. This was the latest example of billionaire CEOs distributing their fortune for philanthropic efforts. One of the earliest public examples of this practice is Andrew Carnegie who, in 1989, wrote the essay “Gospel of Wealth” which stressed the importance of giving. Numerous billionaires and CEOs have followed a similar philosophy over the years. Let’s take a look at three in particular who have matched and even bested Bezos in charitable giving.
Arguably one of the most well-known philanthropists in the world is Bill Gates. The CEO of Microsoft merged two previous charities he started into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 which is where he has devoted most his time and energy into since transitioning away from his CEO role in 2006. Gates has donated $1 billion of his own personal fortune to the foundation and by the end of 2017, the foundation had amounted an endowment of $50.7 billion. According to the website, “the foundation works to reduce inequities around the world.” They have worked to help a variety of causes such as health and education initiatives in developing countries and researching new forms and types of energy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given over $36 billion to various causes, according to Wealth-X. Forbes even calculated that Gates and his wife had donated 41% of their net worth which translated to $32.91 billion in hard cash.
Warren Buffett is well known for his investing prowess, but he is no stranger to distributing his wealth. He stated in 2006 that he would give away 85% of his fortune which was estimated to be worth $85 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has also teamed up with fellow billionaire CEOs Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Bloomberg to start the Giving Pledge in 2010. According to the website, it is an effort to address society’s problems through the use of funds donated by some of the richest CEOs who have committed to donating over half of their wealth to charity during their lifetime. By 2016, Buffett had given away 39% of his net worth which amounts to $25.54 billion according to Forbes.
Mark Zuckerberg, the current CEO and founder of Facebook is amongst the youngest philanthropist CEOs in the world. Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla Chan has donated to various pledges through different organizations and independently. Back in 2012, he donated $100 million in Facebook shares to help better the schools in Newark, New Jersey, through a foundation. He has also given $25 million to help the efforts to fight Ebola, and with his wife, he donated $75 million to the San Francisco General Hospital through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. He also gave $5 million which helped put undocumented immigrants through college. In 2015, they founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which bills itself as a new kind of philanthropic institution with “world-class engineering, grant-making, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work.” The initiative started with a donation of $95 million worth of Facebook shares from Zuckerberg and his wife. They focus on a wide variety of issues like improving education and criminal justice reform.